Monday, July 21, 2008

Radish Week

Oh what can I say about radishes? You can eat them raw, you can chop them up and eat them raw on salads, you can marinate them and eat them raw...the possibilities are endless. Or actually, that's about it.

I really didn't crack whatever secret there is to liking radishes. Their texture is far to dense for something that bitter. The way I see it, if you're determined to taste bad, you might as well go down easy. The pros to radishes: they can be quite attractive? I went to a vegetable market and was pleased by the diversity and bright colors of the radish selection. I ended up buying some long white ones (I don't remember what cutesy name they have for them, so I'm going to say they were "White Dwarfs") and some pink ones (which I think were actually called "Pink Ladies"). They also had an assortment of red and purple varieties. Oh one might never run out of new and exciting radish opportunities to try! I remember my mother having a book on garnishing that told you how to make roses from radishes, so from a purely aesthetic perspective, I can see the usefulness of radishes.

I'm sure if I had done a little research I could have determined some cooked radishes worthy of trying, but at that point I had already condemned radishes as "not worth going through the effort." I ate them raw a few times (during which I determined that the altered color is just a ruse, and all radishes pretty much taste the same) and also I tried a marinated radish recipe. I screwed up the recipe from the start by not having an implement to crack the radishes (a technique which was supposed to allow them to become replete with the delicious marinate) and instead chose to just poke holes in them with a fork, reasoning that it would still soak through the holes. Clearly, this method did not work as well because while the marinate was good, once I bit into the radish it tasted exactly like a regular bitter raw radish. So the cloaking device ultimately failed.

I do have one interesting thing to say about radishes (well okay, its only tangentially related) that I unfortunately was not able to experiment with this week. A commenter from last week mentioned something called miracle fruit that when eaten subdues all your taste buds except for those that detect sweetness for a period of a couple hours. People apparently eat this and then eat sour and bitter foodstuffs to experience the different tastes in a practice called "flavor tripping." In my quest to make radishes look like candy I searched around for these miracle berries around where I live. I found a store that a message board promised sometimes had them, but was unsuccessful. I fully intend to continue my search though because I like the idea of something that supposedly makes vinegar taste like apple juice and cheap beer taste...not like cheap beer.

On a less miraculous note, I believe this will be my last post on vegetables are friends. I've enjoyed the experience, but I'm having trouble keeping it up right now. Also, I'm running out of vegetables. My final reason (under the assumption that all arguments should be threefold) is that I feel, if my waning comments are any indication of overall readership, that people can only read about my eating habits for so long without getting tired of it. Thanks to all my readers for your encouragement over the months! I feel my eating habits are at least somewhat transformed, so I am calling the experiment a success. I may be starting another blog soon about life in NYC (way to be original, right?) and if so, I'll keep you posted on it. Thanks again and happy vegetable eating to all!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sweet Potato Week

Okay, okay, I'm a potato convert. Well, sweet potatoes anyway. I enjoyed them enough to wonder if maybe I've been wrong about claiming that mashed potatoes feel like they're choking me all these years. That said, I don't really think I'll expand to trying to like potatoes. Sweet potatoes are chock full of beta-cartotene, vitamin C and B6 and dietary fiber. As far as I'm concerned regular potatoes are just another ordinary run of the mill starch. And I already like sweet potatoes now, so it seems silly to mess with a good thing.

Oddly the one form I didn't really enjoy as much with the sweet potato was the sweet version. I know it is often pied or mixed with brown sugar or marshmallows, but that seemed a little much to me. Then again, I wonder if maybe I'm not being a little unfair to the sugary method because I didn't really have the ingredients to make it properly (ie marshmallows, brown sugar, pie fixings) so instead I just sprinkled on some cinnamon and white sugar (one of the pre-mixed things you can buy for making cinnamon toast) and hoped for the best. Once I get set up for actual baking, I may have to give it another go.

Another thing I'm saving for later that I thought looked good was a recipe for sweet potato coconut soup. As soon as I get a blender, I will be enjoying such festive summer soups with relish!

But enough on the negative and the things I was unable to accomplish in my limited cooking space! I made some delectable sweet potato fries that were well received thanks to the valuable donation of a friend with a full size oven and an apartment with a nice roof for sweet potato fry eating. We made one batch simply with a little kosher salt, but after those turned out so well, we thought we'd mix things up with the second batch with the addition of spices. He had curry and cumin (and an assortment of spices that didn't seem to lend themselves to sweet potatoes as well). The curry were delicious and the cumin were decent, but not quite as good. Considering the ease of this particular snack food, I could definitely see doing this in the future. I should also add, that I didn't really fry them because I hate frying things. Instead, I tossed them with olive oil and threw them in the oven for a while. They were perhaps not quite as crisp, but overall still delicious and perhaps slightly more healthful.

The other delicious find of this week was some sweet potato ravioli at an Italian grocery store. I'd been contemplating trying a sweet potato gnocchi, but really why go through all that trouble when you can just buy delicious pasta. I'm not sure about the availability of sweet potato ravioli just anywhere because I for one had never seen it before, but should you in your travels ever come across some--my recommendation is that its quite worth your time. In fact, I have a whole box of them, and right now I'm wondering if its too early in the day to fire up the hot plate and start some cooking.

So yes, to sum up: well done sweet potatoes! Its nice to find that beta-carotene is available to the masses in a delicious vegetable and that those snotty carrots don't have some sort of dominion over it.

Next week: radishes!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Jicama Week

Oh, jicama. Jicama week fell victim to the "I'm more preoccupied with buying silverware for my new apartment to later consume jicama with than actually eating jicama" syndrome. Instead, this post will be mostly a conglomeration of jicama "fun facts" with only a few ideas on its use that I can vouch for first hand.

First of all, I can see why jicama is a good salad fixing. It has the crispness of a potato (which I'm not a fan of) and the sort of juiciness of a pear (which I do like). It adds a certain freshness to any salad. Normally, I am of the "vegetables that crunch should be promptly and unceremoniously souped" school of thought, but jicama has a most enjoyable texture. I found some ideas for some interesting salads which I would have liked to experiment with except that up until yesterday I had nary a pot to cook in. One such idea was a shrimp, pineapple, and jicama salad. Doesn't that just sound like summer? I could eat that on the beaches of Cancun (though for more practical purposes I would likely eat it here in my new apartment).

Jicama is apparently popular in Vietnamese food, but apparently not at those restaurants I've been to because I can't remember coming across is knowingly. Apparently, jicama, sometimes called the Mexican Potato or yam bean, is 86-90% water. Imagine that! Also, while the root is a delectable addition to summer salads and soups, the vine contains a toxin that is used to poison insects and fish. Okay, that should reach my "fun fact" quota.

As for the jicama I did eat (and enjoyed, I must say). I had some raw with chili powder and lime. Surprisingly, the lime juice took on the dominant flavor and I didn't really taste the chili powder. The telltale crunch and lime flavor was an enjoyable summer treat. I also had some cooked jicama courtesy of one of my friends from Mexico City. She grated it and cooked it with sugar and vanilla and cinnamon. There may have been other things involved in this, but I can't remember then. At any rate, it was an interesting contrast to have a sweet jicama dish which in the end resembled something sort of like apple sauce but with more texture and tasting less like apples.

I think for next week I'm going to try something that will be a personal challenge. I have always disliked potatoes above most things, and have never seen a need to change that because I get plenty of starch in my diet. However, it has come to my attention that there is a nutritional advantage to sweet potatoes or yams, so I think I will tackle those.

Next week: yams!